China Wine Awards: The perfect wine for China

China Wine Awards: The perfect wine for China

Judges say Riesling and Chinese food can be "a disaster"
China Wine Awards
"Wonder how this will taste with kung pao chicken."

If you’ve heard of Sangiovese, odds are you’re not from China.

For Chinese consumers, wine is a status symbol in a bottle. Their preference is largely for Bordeaux reds -- they are the world's biggest consumers of the prestigious and often expensive French wines. 

As a young market with a voracious thirst for fine wines, China needs a wine authority that understands its unique demands, or so say the people behind the newly-launched China Wine Awards (CWA).

The CWA made its debut this year claiming to be the only major international wine competition judged specifically for the China market and its consumers. It hopes to find the next big thing for the Chinese wine market.

“CWA is an important benchmark in understanding how international wine will complement local [Chinese] cuisines,” says Christian Pillsbury, one of the judges in the event.

“International wine producers say crazy things, like they make really good Riesling that matches Asian food -- but it’s a disaster. You need tasters who are familiar with the local [Chinese] palate to tell you what’s good and what’s not."

More than 700 wines wrapped in brown paper bags were lined up in the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong on September 1 ready for one of the largest tasting face-offs in Greater China.

The 40 judges, ranging from wine wholesalers to connoisseurs from around the world, rated and commented on the wines according to their knowledge of what would work with the Chinese palate.

Unlike other wine competitions, the rubric of CWA includes a rating for “overall suitability for the Chinese market” as well as 21 Chinese cuisines which the judges had to pair with wines.

Judges could also share their tasting notes before grading.

Pillsbury, managing director of Applied Wine, a company that provides wine program management to restaurants, says wine consumers in China fail to “question their assumptions” and need to be more informed.

For starters, he says powerful young wines will spoil the mildly sweet-and-sour flavor in Guangdong cuisine –- something most Chinese drinkers should know but don’t.

Another judge, Chen Huan of the Beijing Capital Wine Company Limited, shares Pillsbury’s views and says China’s wine consumers seldom know wines beyond the top vintages.

“Generally, they don’t know what exactly a [high] score means, apart from that it may taste better,” says Chen, referring to wine ratings from critics.

In affluent areas like Shanghai, consumers rapidly respond to new information and tastes are expanding.

“A few months ago, Shanghai drinkers would only have high-alcohol-content red wines," says Kelly England, president of CWA. "But they seem to be more susceptible to sweeter and lighter white wine now, especially women.”

Awards in each category will be given in Double Gold, Gold, Silver, Bronze and highly recommended. Results of the wine competition will be released in September, find out more at

China Wine AwardsChristian Pillsbury: "This is a very charming wine, whatever it is."

China Wine AwardsChina Wine Awards judged 700 wines from around the world.

China Wine Awards“We want to find what really works for China,” says Kelly England, president of CWA.

Tim has traded in his supply and demand curves for a Master of Journalism degree in hope of doing something a tad more relevant to life, like drinking beer and maybe writing.

Read more about Tim Cheung